Moving to the web with the Software as a Service (SaaS) model. We’re all familiar with software that you buy and install on your computer to use,
well there’s a new way of getting things done and it involves accessing functionality and services online. If you’ve used the Hotmail email client or Google Reader then you’re already familiar with hosted web applications and some of the benefits that this kind of online software can bring, the business model for delivering these services is called Software as a Service (SaaS) and there are a number of key characteristics that make software delivered in this manner different. 1. Available anywhere.You can access your software from any computer equipped with a web browser and an internet connection, this means that offices in a number of locations can all work on the same information in real time, without having to go to the complexity and expense of setting up a e-invoicing with support Virtual Private Network (VPN).2. Automatic Updates.Updates and improvements are rolled out automatically without you having to install any upgrades onto your computer.3. Low entry cost.Because the overhead for running the system is managed centrally the infrastructure costs are spread across a high number of users. Also, you are not paying for implementation so set-up costs are minimal.4. Managed services.Because the software is delivered as a service you can generally get a level of support built in.5. Scalable.Usage levels are linked to a pricing scale which means that you can pay as you go and scale up or down smoothly without having to buy servers or employ more staff to maintain infrastructure, just add or remove licences and service packages to match your needs.6. Cross Platform.Whether you use a Mac, a PC or even Linux, because you access the software through a web browser your operating system is not a problem. There we have some compelling benefits already! Invoicing Online to get up to internet speed! Widespread uptake of the internet within businesses around the world has had a profound impact on the way in which business is done, imagine trying to do business without email or research your projects using the web! The availability of information and the speed at which communication now flows has changed the culture of business and removed geographic boundaries forever.For over 10 years, forward thinking businesses have been looking to leverage the new medium for competitive benefits, automating and streamlining processes to reduce overhead and increase profit margins, often building their own bespoke systems.Today these ideas and processes are being commoditised and made available to anyone who has the forethought to implement them. So let’s make an invoice. On-line. There are a range of web based invoicing services to choose from and you’ll have to do your own research to decide which one’s best for you. I’m going to use Moobiz Online Invoicing, it’s fast and easy to use and has the benefit of being integrated with a whole range of other web based business software that you can add or remove as you wish (And it’s our product!).Most of the steps and points that follow should be fairly interchangeable with most systems, so don’t panic if you’re trying a different service. First of all you’ll need to create an account, luckily most services offer the first month free or have a ‘starter’ package for training purposes. Once you have uploaded your logo, tweaked your invoicing template and are happy with how your invoices will look when emailed and printed; it only takes a few minutes to prepare and send an invoice. Good online invoicing software will also include customer relationship management (CRM) functionality to allow you to track and organise invoices by client as well as status; this is one of the key time savers, because when you create an invoice you can simply select who you want to send it to from a drop down menu instead of keying in your customers details over and over again for each invoice. And whilst creating an invoice there should be the flexibility to edit and re-edit your invoice until you are happy with it, and then ‘lock’ the invoice when it is sent to ensure you always have an exact copy of what was sent to your client. VAT rates and payment terms will also need to be set, along with any particular exclusions you may wish to list. This will either be done on a per invoice basis or as a general setting dependant upon which specific online invoicing system you are using. Dependant upon how complicated your invoices are you should be able to set one up and email it to your client in a few minutes, saving the time and cost of printing envelopes, stamps, address labels and at least 2 days in the postal system. If you save 10 minutes per invoice with an hourly charge-out rate of £60 per hour that’s £10 of productive time per invoice. over 1000 invoices that’s £10,000! An added benefit of online invoicing is the ability to view reports to help you manage the process of getting paid, these reports include an overview of invoice status, highlighting overdue invoices, aged debt analysis and of course the ability to close invoices when paid. Online invoicing is only part of the picture. It’s great to be able to create, send and manage your invoices on-line but that’s only part of the picture as far as making the most of the web for your business goes. With Moobiz we use the same principles to cover everything from the creation of project proposals to invoicing and accounting, customer management, website management and even eCommerce. But each of those is an article in itself!Remember that it’s usually free trial services of this kind and Moobiz certainly lets you sign up and play around for a month to make sure it’s right for you and your business before you pay a penny. Ultimately whichever service you feel is the right one for your business you’ll be using the speed and efficiency that the web can bring to your business and working faster and more effectively.